It's summertime. You can smell the fresh air. It's a beautiful day. An amazing day for a run. However, you realize that you haven't ran in months, if years.
No problem. Just gotta get some running shoes from the store, right?
Nowadays, there are hundreds of different types of shoes to choose from. The shoe salesman is no help either (he's just here for the summer, too!). You don't know what to do. You're tempted to buy the cheapest runner you can find, but just as you do, someone warns you that you could ruin your body. You don't want to do that! But there are running shoes that are $200 and up! How do you know which one to buy, without breaking the bank?
I, however, used to work in a shoe store for 3 years. I can help you. Hence, here's a simple guide to selecting the right shoe for you.
Rule #1 - It's all about fit.
It doesn't matter what anybody says - the right fit is the most important thing criteria for selecting a shoe. A $40 shoe that fits perfectly will be much better than a $200 shoe that doesn't fit at all. Also, certain shoes are designed for certain types of feet. I've listed the most common types of shoes brands, and their respective fits, below as a general guide:
- Asics - Narrow heels, and Wide forefeet
- New Balance - Multiple widths from narrow to wide
- Saucony - Wide feet
- Mizuno - Narrow feet
- Nike - Narrow feet
- Reebok - Wide feet
- Adidas - Narrow feet
If you have narrow feet, stick with brands that specialize with narrow feet, and vice versa. It will simplify the selection process almost immediately.
What does a good fit look like? You should be snug on the both sides of your feet, and there should be a space between your toes and tip of your shoes. That space should be no longer than the width of your thumb. That's it. If one foot is bigger than the other, then size for the bigger foot. You need the extra space because your feet will expand and swell when you run. Simple as that.
Rule #2 - Make sure it's a running shoe
For those who don't know what a running shoe looks like, it will have a lot of mesh, and the rubber on the bottom will be mostly black. The black rubber is carbon rubber, which is the most durable type of rubber available, and therefore, the longest lifespan on the road.
Running shoes are not waterproof. Almost none of them are (unless they have gore-tex). If they are waterproof, they probably aren't breathable (again, unless it's gore-tex) which means your feet will get extremely uncomfortable after long periods of time.
Rule #3 - Ignore the flashing lights
Do NOT get misled by the bright colours, awesome marketing and advertisements. If you are just starting to get into running, and you buy one of those blasted Nike Free Running Shoes, you are making a huge mistake.
Advertisements are incredibly misleading. For instance, Nike Free Running Shoes are designed for experienced runners who are looking to strengthen their feet. The problem is that they lack support, cushioning, and a proper healstrike guide. Imagine your feet succumbing to all that stress after decades of using the support of a normal shoe. These shoes are meant to be used on occasion, to but your feet under excess stress, so that it will build itself up stronger.
Bottome line: yeah, you could definitely hurt yourself. So ignore the flashing lights.
Rule #4 - The highest price is not the best shoe
The higher price means more technology. Technology you may never need to use, depending on your foot type. Here are the 2 basic technologies that you will find in a typical running shoe, and why they exist:
- Pronation Control - only required for flat-footed people
- Cushioning (aka Arch Support) - for obvious reasons, but more necessary if you have a high arch
There are more technologies, but these are the most important ones. Pronation control technology can be seen on the instep of the shoe. If there is a grey coloured patch where the rest of the shoe-foam is typically white, then your shoe has pronation control. This technology is expensive and ramps up the cost considerably. You only need this technology if you have a flat foot.
Absolutely do not buy a shoe with pronation control if you have a normal-high arch. A pronation-controlled shoe will be more stiff and will hurt you immensely. There are fantastic higher-end shoes that are designed just for cushioning. Buy those.
Cushioning, however is something you must invest in. If you shoe has any words on the sole of the shoe, it probably has advanced cushioning compared to your typical shoe foam. Here are some typical brand cushioning technologies:
- Nike Air (or Cushlon), Max Air or Zoom Air
- Adidas Adiprene or Adiprene+
- Asics Gel, Solyte or SpEVA
- Mizuno Wave
- New Balance Abzorb
- Saucony ProGrid
It doesn't matter which is better - it just matters that these technologies EXIST in the shoe you are buying. Investing in cushioning will provide lasting benefits. All the above technologies far outperform a typical running shoe, and are worth the investment. It will save your knees, ankles, and shins from complete destruction (of course, I exaggerate).
So, how much should I spend? (as well as a summary and a special tip!)
If you are just starting to run, I wouldn't spend more than $100 - $120. You can always find a quality shoe on sale, just remember to make sure IT FITS.
Here's a trick - buy two pairs of shoes! If you alternate shoes between your running days, you will get 30% more life out of each shoe. You shoes need time for the cushioning to expand to its original form after each running session. If you don't let that happen, your shoe will get smashed more and more.
- Make sure the shoe fits
- Make sure it's a running shoe
- Don't get distracted by the beautiful advertisements
- Make sure it has cushioning and pronation control (if you're flat footed). If you have a normal - high arch, DO NO BUY SHOES WITH PRONATION CONTROL. It will hurt a lot. Any other feature is simply a nice bell and whistle, but not super important.
- Make a budget around $100. There's no need to spend over $200 on a pair of shoes unless you're running marathons!
Hope that helps. Leave your comments below!